God is Not Dead, the Movie

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Son of God is still in the theaters. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to go.

It seems that there is more than one Christian movie coming out this Lent. God is Not Dead opens this weekend. We need to support movies like this with our time and our dollars.

I’m going. I hope you will, too.

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21% of Americans Say Religion is ‘Not That Important’ in Their Lives

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According to a poll by NBC/WSJ, 21% of Americans say that religion is “not that important in their lives.”

This isn’t a big surprise. It’s consistent with other polls. The details are pretty much the same as those in previous polls, as well. An NBC news article says that “Less religious Americans are more likely to be men, have an income over $75,000, to live in the northeast” and be under 35.

The only comment I have to make about this is that it’s something to consider as we contemplate how to approach re-converting this culture. Do we start with these “not that importants,” or do we begin elsewhere?

I don’t claim to have a decisive answer. But my personal opinion, based mainly on years of political campaigning, is that we should begin with our own people. I think the first great need for active conversion is to be found in the pews of our own churches.

There are over 1 billion Catholics on this planet, and almost all of us are laity. We are the Church. The need to educate, inspire and lead this laity to an active evangelistic fervor is so obvious that I’m not going to waste the words to substantiate it in this brief post.

I think the place to begin the great work of conversion that is in front of us is our own laity. The question I have is, does the laity have to do the work of converting itself?

We need leadership.

How to Present the Christian Message When the Message is the Medium

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The media is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and now polygamy and polyamory. It is also pushing farming women’s bodies for eggs and using women as pregnancy surrogates.

That is the real-world situation. We need to be aware of it. We need to do what we can to make other Christians aware of it, so that they see it for what it is. But what, beyond that, should we do?

We must learn how to communicate our message in today’s world. We can, you know. We’ve just got to stop bemoaning the situation and start thinking about what we can do.

This video gives a brief discussion of how Christianity has historically communicated its message. That’s a good place to start as we move forward to how we will communicate it in today’s world.

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The Media is Selling Anti-Christian Morality

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Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.”

Our use of the phrase “the media” as shorthand for all journalistic endeavors reflects the truth of that.

This media/”message” is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of marriage.

This video contains a reflection about this situation.

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Let’s Rebuild the City: Lecrae Shares His Testimony

Lecrae found Christ, but only gave himself to the Lord half way.

Jesus told us you can not serve two masters.

Lecrae gave his life over to Christ completely after a terrible automobile accident. The rest is rap.

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Son of God to Open in Theaters February 28

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I’m going. Are you?

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For more information, go here.

Getting Real: The Marriage Protection Amendment

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Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

 

Election time is just around the corner.

That means that you will be getting a lot of attention from the people who speak for you in government.

Don’t waste it.

When candidates hold coffees or teas; when they have their town halls or come to your door, make the effort to go and then to talk to them.  Let them know that you’ll be watching what they do if they are elected. Do not assume that because a candidate is with one party or the other that you know how they will vote and what they will do.

Both Rs and Ds will lie to you about where they stand on issues. Both Rs and Ds will defy their party and vote in ways that matter to them.

Ask these candidates, flat out, how they will vote on questions concerning the life of the unborn, violence against women and euthanasia. Then, follow that up with a new one. Ask them if they will vote for the Marriage Protection Amendment.

The Marriage Protection Amendment is a proposed Constitutional Amendment authored by Rep Tim Huelskamp, (R-Kan). Representative Huelskamp introduced the amendment last July.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who is head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ marriage defense efforts, recently sent a letter to Congressman Heulskamp, voicing his support for the proposed amendment.

I agree with the Archbishop that a Constitutional Amendment is the only way to approach this issue. If the Supreme Court had allowed DOMA to stand, the question could and would have been resolved legislatively. But they did not do that, which leaves us with this as our only way to proceed.

In his letter, Cardinal Cordileone said,

Your proposed Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is, therefore, a needed remedy. The amendment would secure in law throughout the country the basic truth known to reason that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Preserving this elemental truth is necessary for the good of society at large and for the good of children who deserve the love of both a mother and a father, neither of whom is expendable. Indeed, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union. Federal court opinions that essentially redefine marriage to be merely a state recognized arrangement of intimate adult relationships ignore the truth about marriage, which deserves the highest protection in law.

I am, therefore, very pleased to support the Marriage Protection Amendment and urge your colleagues to join H. J. Res. 51 as cosponsors. Thank you for introducing in the House of Representatives this needed resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution. 

Make no mistake about it, amending the Constitution is difficult. We have before us not just the political work of passing and ratifying an amendment, but the much more important work of converting our culture.

One reason that the abortion fight has created bitterness and has taken so long is that pro life people have concentrated more on the politics than conversion.

Conversion must begin with us. By that I am referring to our own sexual behaviors, divorces and indifferent child rearing.

I’ve said repeatedly that the first and most important thing we must do — emphasis must do — is protect our own children from the corrosive effects of this post-Christian society in which we now live.

We need to protect our children, and at the same time be unafraid to go forward and speak the truth ourselves. For far too long, adults have protected themselves and thrown their children into the front lines of our trash culture. We have to reverse that, and we need to do it immediately.

Here is a copy of Cardinal Corleone’s letter:

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Pope Francis and the Pentecostals.

You may have already seen this. My fellow Catholic Patheosi have posted it here, here and here that I know of.

I’m posting here to make sure you have a chance to see it. This video gives us the complete Pentecostal service in which they played the Holy Father’s message. If you have time, watch it all the way through and be blessed.

This is wonderful. The Holy Spirit can do so much when He gets His hands on someone who will do what’s asked of them.

At this time when Christianity is under attack it is so important for us to stand together. God bless our wonderful Pope Francis and our Pentecostal brothers and sister in Christ.

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If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come.

St Patrick went to Ireland.

St Paul went to most of the Roman world.

The apostles traversed the known world bringing the message of eternal salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere they went. With the exception of St John, they paid for their fealty with their lives.

Not today’s Catholics.

Somewhere along the line, the missionary paradigm shifted to the build-it-and-wait-for-them-to-come-to-us paradigm. Today’s discussions of evangelizing the world revolve around how to shape our catechesis of the people who show up for regular meetings at our churches. “How can we change our catechesis so that we catechize them into faithfulness?” is the question we ask ourselves.

In other words, we’ve abandoned the Gospel call to convert a lost world that is dying for lack of the saving grace of Christ. We’ve gotten so far away from it that we’ve even lost the ability to effectively convert the people who are sent to us or who come to us of their own volition, actively seeking conversion.

The working Catholic paradigm of converting the world is that we may — or most likely may not — build a church to house the people we already have, and if anybody else wants Jesus, it’s up to them to come to us. Worse, we turn people away for not qualifying, or in the case of our serpentine annulment process, because they can’t find everyone they need from their misspent pasts to fill out the right paperwork.

The miracle in all this is that, in spite of everything, the Church is growing. Year after year, our cathedral in my archdiocese is jam-packed through one mass after the other for the Rite of Election.

We are growing, not due to our missionary fervor, but due to the great hunger for God that runs throughout our lost world. People are hungry for the words that lead to eternal life. They want meaning and love in their lives. Most of all, they want to belong to somebody or something bigger than themselves. They want, they hunger for, Jesus Christ.

People are weary of the no-hope nihilism that our society offers them. They want a way out.

And we have the Way. We are not saved just for ourselves and our families. We have the only Way there is, and it’s our job to lead people to it.

Despite the full cathedrals at the Rite of Election, there are vast fields of lost humanity ready to harvest for the Lord that we ignore. They are, to be specific, everyone who does not come to us, requesting entrance, which, to be even more specific, is everyone who has not found some way to partly Catechize themselves.

Everything we do, from our indifference to converting people, to our diffident refusal to ruffle the feathers of those who oppose Jesus by talking about Him, says that Jesus is our private little g god and that there’s nothing about Him that other people need trouble themselves to find.

Sitting around and waiting for people to convert themselves and then beg us for entrance into our Church is the exact opposite of what Jesus told us to do. It eschews the example of the many saints that we quote at one another in our endless arguments during our internecine battles about nothing much.

The Catholic Patheosi have recently discussed Catechesis in depth and with their deep understanding of churchy things. Now, I am discussing, in my usual backwards way, what I think catechesis truly is. Catechesis is conversion, or it should be. As such, it is not limited to specific periods of formal instruction.

The base problem with our Catechesis is simply that it is not converting people. It is not even converting people who come and ask to be converted and who faithfully attend meetings in an effort to become converted. There are many reasons for this, and I’m not expert enough in this area to have ideas about the specifics.

But I can say from quite a bit of first-hand experience that when it comes to most of the world outside our church doors, we not only aren’t catechizing anybody, we aren’t even trying. We do not go to these people and talk to them about Jesus. We simply ignore them, as we ignore everybody else who doesn’t come to us first.

We need to forget the paradigm of build a church and wait for the world to come to us. Because more and more, even if we build it, they won’t necessarily come.

It’s hard to get into the Catholic Church today. You not only have to be the one to convert yourself, you’ve got to be the one to take all the initiative about joining. Then, you’ve got to jump through all sorts of hoops.

If you have a complicated past involving messy marriages — as so many people in this post-Christian age do — you may very well end up having to go through preparation for what amounts to a court proceeding to have your past legally expunged. If you can’t be a good enough lawyer for yourself in this court to get it done, you are not welcome at Christ’s table.

I have a suggestion on this, which I know will offend a lot of people. But perhaps the Church could begin the annulment process for converts by establishing a sort of triage system. If it was a common law marriage, or the person was married by a judge or in a church that worships satan or trees or whatever, then there’s no real reason for them to take the full canonical dose to get an annulment. Those marriages are invalid on their face. We also need a process for people who can’t go back decades and find everyone, or if they do find them, are physically afraid of them.

I’m not talking about Catholic marriages here. I am talking about marriages in the pre-conversion lives of converts; marriages outside the Church.

Ditto for things like baptismal certificates. A lot of protestant churches do not keep the extensive records that Catholics do. Many of them stay in business for a few years then close up and go away. If there’s a doubt in the pastor’s mind, then he should just give the convert a provisional baptism. Keeping people out of the Church over things like this is wrong.

The world is changing. We are going to be dealing more and more with people who have never heard the name Jesus; people who have been fully catechized, but not as we mean it. They are fully catechized in the nihilism of hook-up sex, do-unto-others-before-they-do-it-to-you-first, anything-goes post-Christian cultural dissolution.

It’s going to take more than the old build-it-and-wait-for-them-to-come-to-us paradigm if we seriously want to evangelize this new world. It will require the Apostolic fervor that built the Church in the first place.

My thoughts on what the Church needs to do in the New Evangelization are quite simple. Preach Christ. To everybody. And take down the No Room at the Inn sign.

Will They Know We are Christians by Our Love?

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“A Christian murderer…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.” Pope Francis

I want to tell you two stories, both true, and both of which happened to me.

Back when I was running for office the first time around, I held a fund-raising party at a friend’s house. During the course of that campaign, I had been the target of a group of people who were strongly pro life. I had preachers at the largest churches in the district, preaching against me every Sunday. I had pro life people, walking door-to-door throughout the entire district, spreading outrageous lies about me.

For some reason, whenever a woman runs for office, the lies usually center around sex. I was denounced as a lesbian/prostitute/whore. I was also called a Communist.

When the fund-raising party took place, several of the pro life people showed up and took photos of the guests as they entered the house in what everyone thought was an attempt to intimidate them. They also made a point of writing down the license tag numbers on the guests’ cars.

That was back then, when I was pro choice.

Flash forward a couple of decades, and I am a converted Catholic, and what has been called the most pro life member of the Oklahoma legislature. (That’s the same Oklahoma legislature I was in back when I was pro choice.)

I hold another fund-raising event, this time a reception at the law office of a long-time friend of mine. Once again, I have been attacked by people who are passionate about the issue of abortion. Only this time it is the pro abortion people. I almost get censured by the Oklahoma Democratic Party. I am called a woman-hater/liar/whore. I am also called a (get ready for this) Fascist.

Now, at this fund-raising party, the pro abortion people show up. They — you guessed it — take photos of the guests as they enter the building, presumably to intimidate them, and write down the license tag numbers on the guest’s cars. The only difference between them and the pro life people who attacked me in my past is that they add the flourish of pickets with signs and chanting “traitor” at me in loud voices when I walk into the building.

Here’s my point: How, exactly, would a person on the sidelines be able to tell these two groups apart?

Answer: They’re can’t.

Both groups justify their behavior with claims that they are behaving badly out of a desire to create a greater good. The pro choicers claim that they are motivated by their love for women. The pro lifers say that they are motived by their love for unborn babies.

But if there is love in either group, you can’t see it by watching them. Their motivation appears to be hatred of one another.

In my humble opinion, if you can’t tell the difference between the behavior of pro life people and pro abortion people, then the pro life people are doing something wrong.

Evidently, my earlier post about slander and hate in political campaigns, felt like a personal attack to at least a few Public Catholic readers. That was not my intention. I know how hard it is to keep your religion when you are dealing with evil, and abortion is evil, right down to the ground. It perverts everything it touches, including good intentions.

It is the easiest thing in the world to convince yourself that sin is not sin if it is committed in the name of doing good. Politicians do this all the time. It’s why nobody trusts them. Politicians have extraordinary verbal skills and a good dose of legal sophistry at their disposal. They can spin up explanations about their own behavior and use those explanations to give themselves a green light to do just about anything. They excuse immoral behavior by claiming a moral imperative to behave immorally on just about every weasel vote they take.

Anyone who engages in the political battles of this world — even volunteers and well-wishers — is positioning themselves for a blast from the temptations of power. There are plenty of power brokers out there working full-time to grease the slide of ordinary people into the same self-congratulatory self-excusing self-justifications that politicians use.

But the truth itself remains untouched. In the end, the only ones we fool are ourselves.

What I’m trying to say is Do not let the evil of abortion and the venality of politics overwhelm your goodness and destroy your Christian witness. Do not tell yourself that sin is not sin if it is committed in the name of fighting abortion. Do not tell yourself that maliciously spreading ugly stories and gossip about other people is ok if it’s done to keep a pro abort out of office.

Because it is not ok. You may not do evil for a good cause. You also may not do evil because someone else did it first. It is wrong. It is sinful. For your own sake — for your own soul — do not become hardened in this sin of personal character assassination.

Several commenters have objected to the use of the phrase “murder with words” to describe the deliberate destruction of another person’s reputation for malicious purposes. I have looked into the eyes and seen the faces of people from both sides of the argument as they spit out vile epithets at me. I saw who sent them in their eyes. I never doubted that they were trying to hate me to death, that the only thing between their hate and actual, physical murder was fear of the law. The experience gave me an understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that a person who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and no murderer has eternal life within him. 

Think for a minute. Consider the dark pleasure that you feel when you are venting your righteous rage. Ponder the ugliness that enters your soul, along with the anger that accompanies it.

I spent a good bit of time in church this weekend, praying about my own righteous anger over fallen Catholics in high places. I knew that I could not and would not take to the various forums that are open to me and begin calling them names and putting out Photoshopped versions of their faces, replete with horns and ugly expressions. I had no temptation to degrade them as human beings or to spread ugly stories about them to punish and hurt them.

But I knew that the anger I felt could fester into bitterness, and that this bitterness would separate me from the one place above all that I want to be, which is in a state of grace. I want to do what my Lord Jesus Christ requires of me. So, I prayed about this anger before it had time to grow roots and begin to own me.

It is ok, it is fine, in fact, to deal with issues and facts and to point out the areas where you disagree with a person. It is ok, when the facts themselves warrant it, to say something such as President Obama is the most pro abortion president in history. I think there is sufficient factual evidence to warrant that statement, and I also think that it pertains to his job performance.

As their employers, the American people are obliged to have opinions about their elected officials’ job performance. Judiciously considering the facts and making reasoned judgements about how our elected officials perform their jobs is part of our charge as citizens of this Republic.

It is also imperative that Christians engage the larger culture through their work, their politics and their ministries. We are called to be the light of the world. We need to go into the world and be that light.

But trashing another person for the pleasure of hurting them — which is the real reason people repeat ugly, personal stories — is sinful. Trashing another person as a tactic is just as sinful. I am not talking about legitimate political criticism. I am talking about attempts to destroy someone’s reputation by spitefully spreading personal stories about them in what amounts to a political vendetta. Use any excuse you want, that is a sin. If you will just look into your own heart, at the darkness it puts there, you will know it for the sin it is.

I can attest to this because I am a human being. I know about the dark pleasure of hurting someone with words because I have felt it. I can tell you, based on my sinful experience that this is a grave sin that not only inflicts helplessness, humiliation and scalding pain on the person you attack, it dips your own soul in the blackness of evil. It is from the pit.

The question is not whether or not “everybody else is doing it.” Of course they are. Our whole culture is rotten with the politics of personal destruction. That is not a question at all.

The real question is: When people look at pro life advocates, will they be able to tell a difference between us and the pro abortion advocates?

Unless the answer to that is a clear-cut and resounding “yes,” we will never, no matter how hard we try, convert this culture to Christ.

After I wrote this, I found these comments from Pope Francis on this subject. From CNA/EWTN:

.- During his morning Mass homily in Santa Marta, Pope Francis focused on the topic of gossip – saying that when we participate in this sin, we imitate Cain’s gesture in killing his brother Abel.

The Pope began his homily Sept. 13 by echoing the words of Jesus in the gospel reading, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

He spoke for a few minutes on the virtue of humility, adding that Jesus addressed those who practice the opposite and who foster “that hateful attitude towards one’s neighbor when one becomes a ‘judge’ of his brother,” calling them “hypocrites.”

“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings.”

Pope Francis said that the “Lord does not waste many words on this concept,” and that “he who has hatred in his heart for his brother is a murderer.”

The Pope added that in his first letter, John the Apostle emphasizes that “anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he walks in darkness, he who judges his brother walks in darkness,” and that those who judge or speak ill of others are “Christian murderers.”

“A Christian murderer…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.”

During this time when there is so much debate and discussion about war amid cries for peace, the pontiff pleaded that “a gesture of conversion on our own behalf is necessary.”

“Gossip,” he cautioned, “always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip.”

Quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope imparted that the tongue is designed to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God…the image of God in our brother.”


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